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Martin Eden

Chapter 20
The desire to write was stirring in Martin once more. Stories and poems were
springing into spontaneous creation in his brain, and he made notes of them
against the future time when he would give them expression. But he did not write.
This was his little vacation; he had resolved to devote it to rest and love, and in
both matters he prospered. He was soon spilling over with vitality, and each day
he saw Ruth, at the moment of meeting, she experienced the old shock of his
strength and health.
"Be careful," her mother warned her once again. "I am afraid you are seeing too
much of Martin Eden."
But Ruth laughed from security. She was sure of herself, and in a few days he
would be off to sea. Then, by the time he returned, she would be away on her
visit East. There was a magic, however, in the strength and health of Martin. He,
too, had been told of her contemplated Eastern trip, and he felt the need for
haste. Yet he did not know how to make love to a girl like Ruth. Then, too, he
was handicapped by the possession of a great fund of experience with girls and
women who had been absolutely different from her. They had known about love
and life and flirtation, while she knew nothing about such things. Her prodigious
innocence appalled him, freezing on his lips all ardors of speech, and convincing
him, in spite of himself, of his own unworthiness. Also he was handicapped in
another way. He had himself never been in love before. He had liked women in
that turgid past of his, and been fascinated by some of them, but he had not
known what it was to love them. He had whistled in a masterful, careless way,
and they had come to him. They had been diversions, incidents, part of the game
men play, but a small part at most. And now, and for the first time, he was a
suppliant, tender and timid and doubting. He did not know the way of love, nor its
speech, while he was frightened at his loved one's clear innocence.
In the course of getting acquainted with a varied world, whirling on through the
ever changing phases of it, he had learned a rule of conduct which was to the
effect that when one played a strange game, he should let the other fellow play
first. This had stood him in good stead a thousand times and trained him as an
observer as well. He knew how to watch the thing that was strange, and to wait
for a weakness, for a place of entrance, to divulge itself. It was like sparring for
an opening in fist-fighting. And when such an opening came, he knew by long
experience to play for it and to play hard.
So he waited with Ruth and watched, desiring to speak his love but not daring.
He was afraid of shocking her, and he was not sure of himself. Had he but known
it, he was following the right course with her. Love came into the world before
articulate speech, and in its own early youth it had learned ways and means that